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AIT receives capital investment for an innovative STEM building

Published: 17th October 2017

Funding for a new STEM building has been announced today for AIT, as part of the Department of Education and Skills €200 million investment in Institutes of Technology.

AIT President Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin welcomed the announcement and said it is a significant day for the future growth of the Institute and its region.

President of AIT, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said, “This is a very significant day for our Institute and indeed the wider midlands region. This capital investment will enable us to build a state of the art STEM building which will have a significant impact on our region. It will create additional capacity for up to 1,000 additional STEM students, enabling AIT to provide for increase student demand on STEM programmes in pharma, biopharma, microbiology, sport and health science and design, innovation and technology. As the sole HE provider in a large region with a declared goal of playing a catalytic role in social, economic and cultural development of its catchment, this building and its provision will meet regional and industry needs in a holistic way through an interdisciplinary approach to the programmes areas that it will service.”

Professor Ó Catháin added, “In a challenging HE landscape, we have a clear strategy to continue to develop as a dynamic institution with an applied industry focus, embedded in our regional need and exposing the core academic strengths of our Institute and receiving this funding for our STEM building further enables that vision. AIT has responded to the challenging HE landscape in recent years and have strengthened our research output, strengthened our engagement with industry and embedded our core course offering and new academic vision in our region and its needs in order to reinforce the role of AIT as drivers of growth and innovation. In addition, this building and its new academic, industry and research provision will add strength to our transition towards becoming a technological university.”

The announcement made by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D announced a schedule of 11 significant projects for the sector. Speaking at the announcement Minister Bruton. stated: “I have set the ambition to make Ireland the best education and training service in Europe within a decade. State of the art facilities are key to realizing this ambition. These projects will be delivered in every province, in locations extending from Letterkenny to Waterford, and from Galway to Dublin. The delivery of these projects, together with the additional €257m over three years capital funding which we secured last week in the Budget, mark a turning point for State investment in the higher education sector. They demonstrate the commitment of the Government to supporting the sector in catering for demographic growth, responding to skills needs in the economy and improving the campus environment for students and staff.”

Dr Niall Seery, Registrar and Vice President of Academic Affairs at AIT commented, “The depth and breadth of academic provision that will be hosted in this new STEM building will include a focus on new priority areas for the Institute such as design, innovation and technology. These growth areas are being used as a competitive advantage in promoting Ireland’s creative economy and design excellence as part of our enterprise and innovation culture. It is therefore a significant future growth area in our academic provision that will be housed in this STEM building. It will enable us to capitalise on the opportunity that is emerging in the midlands region to build a focus on industrial design, through collaboration between industry and AIT. This building will meet the multidisciplinary needs of innovative education and industry.”

Dr Seery added, “The STEM building will improve the alignment of applied sciences education and training programmes, increase the provision of work placements on a regional basis and it will assist in the provision of identified skills shortages within applied sciences and design and innovation. It will enable us to build on our provision that has growing demand such as biosciences, toxicology, microbiology, pharmaceutical, bio-pharma, sport and health science and design and innovation technology. The innovative building will include pilot plants, multi bay clean rooms, advanced micro manufacturing and fab labs enabling us to produce a strong pipeline of graduates to service our region and beyond but also enabling our graduates to be employment ready from day one in high growth areas.”

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. stated “Institutes of Technology have been disproportionately affected by the fall-off in capital investment in higher education over the past decade. And yet they have still shown a level of flexibility and innovation that rivals any other sector. In recent times the infrastructure hasn’t evolved or improved quickly enough to match their dynamism. We’re starting the process of changing that today. Many of our Institutes are working towards the attainment of Technological University status and the new infrastructure will support them in that aim. The move towards Technological Universities is a game changer for the sector. It’s a significant, welcome structural change. And is an example of the kind of vision and big thinking we need to progress our society.”

Dr Don Faller, Dean of Faculty of Science & Health said, “‘Today’s announcement of funding for a new STEM building is a very significant milestone in AIT’s trajectory towards a Technological University. It will allow the Science and Health Faculty the space and resources needed to further develop and expand our range of employment-focused academic programmes into the 2020s and beyond. As the Midlands region becomes one of Ireland’s Pharma/Biopharma hubs, AIT’s role in producing industry-ready scientists and technologists at all levels up to and including PhD will be further enhanced with the availability of new STEM facilities that this building will provide.”

The Chief Executive of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), Dr Joseph Ryan, welcomed the announcement today (16 October) of a signal major capital investment in higher education. The announcement, made jointly by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, and Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, promises funding for 11 major capital investment projects which will deliver brand new state of the art facilities to Institutes of Technology across the country.

“We are delighted to acknowledge this, the first major capital investment in the technological sector in ten years,” stated Dr Ryan. “ The sector has consistently out-performed itself despite core funding per student dropping by 22% in the seven-year period to 2015. Government has committed to address the current spending challenge and that work is underway; this complementary injection of capital funding into our Institutes of Technology will greatly enhance the student experience and will support the delivery of highest class education and training throughout the technological sector. This technological sector has been central to regional and national economic development in ensuring an ongoing stream of employment-ready graduates, and in supporting innovation and product development through impact-focussed research. It is work that is catalytic for each region and community and it is key to delivering on the current suite of Government policy that is designed to sustain our economic recovery. Today’s announcement supports and will enhance the valued relationship that exists between the Institues of Technology and local enterprise; it supports Government policy on regional development and Integration with the identified needs of local industry; and is timely as we transition towards the introduction of Technological Universities.

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